True Grit: Teaching Kids Fearlessness in the Face of Failure

We’re dedicating today’s blog to William Krafve, the biggest John Wayne and Davy Crockett fan ever!

True Grit isn’t about being extra brave or stubborn. Okay, maybe it’s a little bit of raw stubbornness. But, true grit is really about being fearless in the face of failure. How do we teach our children to get back up when they fall down? 

Many of us are wondering about all that’s happening in our culture. Is there hope things will settle down so we can have a decent conversation?

With so much confusion on the nightly news, how do we teach our kids to be the calm in the chaos? You’re going to love what Anna shares about inspiring true grit in our kids every day.

For this conversation, Anna and I focus on inspiring our kids with the confidence to overcome fear. But for more thoughts on facing down racism and rioting in our culture, keep reading below. Or click here for Stanley Cofer’s thoughts on “Living the Dream”—a desegregated life—today. To find more podcasts, including interviews with amazing friends who happen to bring an African American perspective to life, click here.

Fear and Pretend Perfection

As a kindergarten girl, Anna erased holes in her paper because she couldn’t write the alphabet to her satisfaction. She doesn’t even remember. But as her mommy, I was worried.

“Mistakes are an opportunity to be creative,” I told my sweet little creative daughter. (For more on defeating perfectionism, click here.

“That was so freeing. I think it’s one of the reasons I wanted to be an artist,” Anna says now. “Art was one of the places I didn’t have to be afraid. I could be inspired instead.”

I suspect it’s our insecurities—our fears—that keep us tied to old prejudices. With a little creativity, we can become people of true grit. Inspiration instead of insecurity–that’s what we want.

Trying Counts

Way back then, as a young mommy, I started feeling bad about my own bondage to my insecurities. We adopted another family motto, “Trying counts.” We wanted freedom from fear.

“Sometimes, you just have to give yourself credit for being brave and trying,” laughs Anna, adding that “trying counts” is a great motto for potty training. 

Whether it’s potty training toddlers or standing up for what is right, life demands true grit out of all of us along the way.

True Grit

“I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but the reason I tend to fail is because I’m afraid. I get undermined by my fear,” says Anna. (For more on the art of messing up, click here.)

“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he knows he should have done.” ~John Wayne, American Film Actor, Director, and Producer

Often we fail to try before we really give ourselves a chance to succeed. Anna asks for faith in the face of her fear. She says grit is about perspective. I learned a valuable lesson about perspective when I was taking Spanish at Tyler Junior College, about fifteen years ago.

Racism in America

In class, I enjoyed a diverse mix of folks, mostly younger than me. One evening, a young African American man spoke up about systemic racism. Naturally, since I remember the civil rights movement clearly, I gently pointed out the progress all Americans experience. 

Hyphenated Americans? Caucasian? Black? Really? Remember, I’m the gal who writes “Texan” on all government forms whenever they give me the “other” option.

Respectfully, the young man responded by asking me a simple question. During that semester, how many times had I been stopped by law enforcement on the way to class? Answer: 0. How many times had he been stopped? Answer: 6. 

My perspective was valid, it just needed a little expanding. Thinking back, I wonder about that young man’s family. Where did he get that kind of true grit? (For multiple perspectives presented in a fast-paced fiction story, I recommend Ben Sciacca’s book, Meals from Mars.)

Sometimes we all need a little education. Not a brick through our window. Certainly, not labels. No self-righteous lectures. Just a little compassionate education. We need to cross self-segregating lines that frighten us and risk being authentic. It’s okay to ask honest questions from trustworthy, respectable people. Good questions hold us all accountable.

Outlasting Failure

Success is not the opposite of failure. Success is outlasting failure–refusing to give up and quit–through perseverance and true grit to accomplish blessings for others. Like the young man in my class.

“When I ask God for faith, it allows me to identify what is true success,” says Anna. Surprisingly, sometimes true success is not even what we originally sought. “Then, if I do miss the mark I still have the faith that God has given me,” she adds. 

As an educator, Anna has learned to break success down into steps for kids.

The Steps to Success

Anna gives the example of teaching kids to write the alphabet. Even a short phrase can feel overwhelming to a child. For example, Anna gave her son a sentence that was too long.

“His face fell. The opportunity was lost.” But a few days later he was ready to try again.

“The next time, I took his hand in mine.” Gently, she asked him what he wanted to write. Next, she helped him shorten his thoughts to fewer words. 

“On a scrap piece of paper, I helped him form one letter. Then he wrote it on his note.” 

After each new letter, his face beamed. With growing confidence, he even practiced some of the letters a couple of extra times on the scrap paper. 

Mistakes Open Up Opportunities

Clearly, steps are an important part of learning to succeed. As adults, it’s easy to forget how much we practiced and failed our alphabet way back when. We often think failure is permanent. Instead, we need to look for solutions and own our mistakes.

“Get this, we get almost to the end and I look at his note. ‘Something’s off,’ says Anna. “Some of his letters are a little wonky still.” Suddenly, she recognized the problem.

“I’m so sorry, mommy misspelled one of the words!”

Immediately, Anna’s mistake gave her a natural opportunity to model how to apologize and shake off a minor mistake. Plus, her son got to practice graciousness.

From A to Z, Give Yourself Credit

As adults, we still want to jump from A to Z, without taking the time to learn all that’s in between. In our impatience, we can get so frustrated we want to give up.

“Some days as a toddler mom, I feel like I haven’t done anything. I know I’m doing good work, but I get to the end of the day and feel like there’s nothing to show for it,” adds Anna.

It’s easy to feel like we’re in a rut. Like things will never change, only get worse. Given a little bit of fear, soon depression can sneak up on all of us. (For many ways to succeed as Mommy, find more podcasts here or sign up for our weekly FREE blog here.)

True Grit Expressed in Conversation

It takes true grit to welcome the people God brings into our lives and trust Him with any discomfort. To seek wisdom. Like the young man in my class, to give a positive direction.

 “I like the word ponder for describing the process of considering different perspectives and thus growing in our mutual understanding and respect.”~from The Well, The Art of Drawing Out Authentic Conversation, coming out soon. (Yay!!)

Sure, we can just stay shallow. We can judge and label and box other people in. Or, we can embrace real friendships, adding depth to our lives and hearts.

Mommy Of Toddlers: Changing a Culture

“Sitting in my den, holding my son’s little fist in mine while we make letters. For him, that’s really hard work. It involves practicing and he feels like he may or may not succeed,” says Anna. She knows those moments are precious.

“As his mom, I could be doing something else, something that feels more important or more successful. But that moment spent with him—that’s the most successful thing I could do with my time.”

Our hats are off to all mommies! Is there any better way to learn true grit than to spend a day with adorable toddlers? Take it from this “Super-Gram,” little ones are exhausting!

Your perseverance will inspire true grit and faith in your children. Fellowship in your family will feed faith. Faith dispels fear. True grit claims hope and perseveres. Grit makes for stronger, more authentic families and friendships.

Education, like friendship, begins with a fresh perspective and a respectful conversation. Dialogue, not shouting. Good questions, not gotcha.

When we hurt what we need is a friend. A real friend—one who understands that gentle truth is life-giving for everyone.

May we pray together?

Dear good Father in heaven, we want to raise amazing sons and daughters who stand free of old bondages. Allow us to teach our kids to embrace true grit, fearlessly stepping out in faith. Unite us in the things You love. Teach us to love each other and to love Your truth more than life itself. Give us perseverance and wisdom for today’s trials and joy in the victories. We praise You, O Lord. Thank You for being our unfailing companion in this life and the next. You open heaven to us, inviting us in, by way of Your Son. In His name, we pray. Amen.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!

What’s your favorite thing about your friends from different backgrounds? How do religious, ethnic, and political differences make for a richer life? When other people reject your firmly held beliefs, what do you say? How does your family celebrate different perspectives and backgrounds with friends? 

Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at CathyKrafve.com. Truth with a Texas Twang.

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A Semi-retired Mom, Queen of Fun, and Coffee Cup Philosopher Cathy Krafve pulls in exciting guests from all walks of life who rejoice in deeply spiritual truths.

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